[KS] BBC journalists pose as LSE university students in North

Koen De Ceuster koen.de.ceuster at telenet.be
Mon Apr 15 03:11:46 EDT 2013

[KDC] In a way, what is most shocking, is that this is another example of
what Aidan Foster-Carter has called the Columbus Syndrome: here we have John
Sweeney who surfs once more the wave that we have no information on North
Korea and he therefore heroically (and inevitably undercover; you have to
earn the hero label) went in to discover the truth about North Korea by
joining an 8-day tourist group. What can he possibly bring back home but the
same images that all would-be discoverers have brought back from guided
tours: the same-same images larded with comments that he would have given us
anyway prior to his departure. It will not be the images that will stun, it
will be the comments that will make all the difference (or, more probably,
make no difference at all). 
Now the BBC is justifying itself by talking about the "huge public
interest", but what on earth can you bring home in terms of visual material
[and insight for that matter] from the well-rehearsed tourist trail that was
not already in the public domain? Are we really going to shout "eureka"
after having seen tonight's Panorama programme. 
Aside from this, the really annoying thing is that this kind of behaviour is
so self-centred. Once John Sweeney is gone, he can forget all about North
Korea. But what about those who are trying to build relations with North
Korea(ns) and try to work there on the ground and whose interests have now
once more been jeopardized and tainted with the suspicion of double agendas
and what have you. How can an academic party not be treated with suspicion
the next time 'round? This is something that John Sweeney did and does not
care about. 

I just saw Ruediger's message flash up: the LSE party did not go in with
Koryotours, but apparently (at least that is what John Sweeney told the BBC)
with KFA.


Koen De Ceuster
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2013 02:23:11 +0100 (BST)
From: Balazs Szalontai <aoverl at yahoo.co.uk>
To: Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
Subject: Re: [KS] BBC journalists pose as LSE university students in
	North	Korea
	<1365988991.61482.YahooMailNeo at web28905.mail.ir2.yahoo.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"

Dear Don,
please refrain from using terms like "what nonsense." The risk?incurred was
not that the LSE students might be summarily executed or sent to a labor
camp for the rest of their life.?It was rather that LSE's reputation could
have been, and possibly was, damaged by that?BBC venture. I bet the North
Koreans suspect that LSE willingly provided cover for?Sweeney's team, and in
their mind, such undercover journalists are likely to?be the minions of
Western intelligence services.?While one?might shrug off the incident?on
the?grounds that for the time being, there is little, if any,?chance for a
serious academic exchange between LSE and any North Korean university?along
the lines of the earlier cooperation between Syracuse University and Kim
Ch'aek University, I think that the mere fact that North Korea allowed the
LSE students to visit the country indicates that they want to keep?a door
open (even if only very slightly).??
Bal?zs Szalontai
Kwangwoon University???

> From: don kirk <kirkdon at yahoo.com>
>To: Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>Sent: Monday, 15 April 2013, 8:29
>Subject: Re: [KS] BBC journalists pose as LSE university students in 
>North Korea
>Obviously no journalist should report what he hasn't seen. On the other
hand, contacts in Pyongyang, NGO's, WFP, diplomats, do provide insights into
stuff the journalists would not have seen -- and the NKoreans might not
like. Journalists cannot be limited to reporting only what they see with
their eyes.
>My sense is the LSE people on the trip are crybabies making a fuss out of
nothing. They should be cheering the BBC people for their enterprise. Of
course no one was in the slightest danger. What nonsense. Please.
>Don Kirk
>--- On Sun, 4/14/13, Jim Hoare <jim at jhoare10.fsnet.co.uk> wrote:
>>From: Jim Hoare <jim at jhoare10.fsnet.co.uk>
>>Subject: Re: [KS] BBC journalists pose as LSE
 university students in North Korea
>>To: "'Korean Studies Discussion List'" <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>>Date: Sunday, April 14, 2013, 5:57 PM
>>I am appalled by the action of this
reporter and by the BBC?s defence. It is quite interesting how his BBC
colleagues interviewing him and senior staff have adopted a highly critical
>>As it happens, one of the students
involved had contacted me in advance about likely issues on the visit and
among the things that I said concerned the North Koreans was people who were
journalists pretending to be something else. 
>>The journalist, Mr Sweeney, has been
devious. He knew the danger to which he was subjecting the students but went
ahead. As I understand it, it was only as they left Beijing that they were
told that there were three people who were journalists by which time they
could have done nothing about it. 
>>And for what? As one of the BBC
interviewers put it, what did they get that was any different from tourist
accounts? Nothing as far as I can see, though I will watch the program
tomorrow with interest. But Mr Sweeney?s comments so far and his Daily Mail
article do not indicate a dispassionate approach. 
>>Don Kirk may feel that it is OK to go
pretending to be something else but I disagree. When I was in Pyongyang in
the early 2000s, a number of BBC journalists visited ? with journalist visas
and saw quite a lot without being in any way clandestine. My experience of
the North Koreans was that the problem was journalists who pretended to have
seen things that they had not, rather than those who honestly? reported what
they had seen. 
>>Jim Hoare
>>British charg? d?affaires
(Head of the British embassy), Pyongyang 2001-2002. 
>>Senior Teaching Fellow, SOAS. 
[mailto:koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws] On Behalf Of Keith Howard
>>Sent: 14 April 2013 21:16
>>To: koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
>>Subject: [KS] BBC journalists pose
as LSE university students in North Korea  
>>I trust that some list members have heard of the lead news story today
on the BBC, about three BBC journalists who accompanied students from the
LSE ? under the disguise of themselves claiming to be students. A BBC
spokesman has claimed that to film the documentary (due to be broadcast
tomorrow), it was worthwhile putting students at risk (Can this be right?
? it was what their spokesman said on Radio 4 this afternoon).?  
>>I would be interested in colleagues' reactions.?  
>>Prof. Keith Howard
>>SOAS, University of London
>>Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG, UK kh at soas.ac.uk; 0207
8984687; 07805 048801           
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